Jason, Travis Kelce give Cincinnati a New Heights experience to remember

From Gobearcats:

CINCINNATI -- The confetti at the close was the perfect ending, not to mention following a surprise, for New Heights Live! at Fifth Third Arena on Thursday night.


Proud Cincinnati alumni and future Pro Football Hall of Famers Jason and Travis Kelce, in partnership with Cincy Reigns, held arguably one of the most memorable nights in campus history in front of more than 12,000 fans that raised countless money for UC student-athletes, as well as leaving guests with four hours of unforgettable entertainment.




“Obviously, Travis and I are incredibly honored, and it’s crazy that we’re put in position to do stuff like this,” Jason said to media from the offensive line meeting room at 4:30 p.m. “Anytime we come back here, there’s such a wave of emotion and memories that really hit you, especially walking into this room. You spend so much time here, and as a student-athlete you’re invested into the football program and university. You’re here non-stop, and it’s such a big part of anyone’s career or life. When you’re back, it really hits you in full force.”


The brothers completed their in-arena rehearsal in time to meet with the entire team before splitting off into their respective position groups for a few words there. Part of that team-wide meeting included a chance to present a $10,000 scholarship check to walk-on defensive lineman Ben Blevins.


The Cincinnati native and La Salle alum was called up to the stage early in the night, where after receiving the giant check, the board played a personalized message from Drew Brees on behalf of Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux Restaurant.



The Kelces are natural entertainers, so this was going to be more than a podcast. The pair listed Revenge of the Nerds as one of their favorite movies growing up, and in doing so presented the Lombaby games, which pitted eight student-athletes against eight traditional students in a series of mental and physical challenges.


The student-athletes included Jillian Hayes (women’s basketball), Jizzle James (men’s basketball), Lauren Pleiman (women’s golf), Ellie Flower (soccer), Dontay Corleone (football), Juliette Laracuente-Huebner (track and field), Korbin Spencer (track and field), Jessica Davis (swimming and diving), Thomas Matthew (swimming and diving), Zeta Washington (volleyball) and Kimora Bailey (lacrosse).




Three of the competitions included trivia questions whilst riding a mechanical bull, a spelling bee of words that included Steve Spagnuolo’s surname and immersing oneself in an inflatable pool of noodles, cheese and Skyline Chili to find Jason’s actual Super Bowl ring.


Spoiler alert: the students won.



It was full WWE style from the get-go with the most raucous introduction imaginable for the two hosts. Following some brief words and an abundance of Subway sandwiches (the title sponsor for New Heights Live!) shot via t-shirt gun into the crowd, the first guest was called up.


Desmond Ridder, college football’s third all-time winningest quarterback who led UC to two undefeated regular-seasons and a 2021 CFP appearance, made his way through the pyro tunnel to the stage.


Among Ridder’s memories included recalling his famous Cincinnati scholarship offer phone call, received in a hurried state inside a port-a-potty in the Churchill Downs infield (he said he needed the quietest place possible), as well as his “Welcome to UC” moments. While he couldn’t pin one down, the first he listed was the 2018 road game at UCF.




“College Gameday was there, and it was a crazy experience,” he said. “While we weren’t successful in the outcome, it showed us where we could be.”


Ridder, then a redshirt-freshman, boasted a 9-1 record at that time. The Bearcats closed with wins over East Carolina and Virginia Tech, then went 33-5 the next three years.


Next up was Bengals offensive lineman, and former Kansas City Chiefs teammate, Orlando Brown Jr. The former Oklahoma standout took questions about his football journey, including reaching 6-foot-6 and 400 pounds in eighth grade, as well as stories of JJ Watt and others as players whom he will most remember competing.


Days prior to the event, Bengals quarterback and 2019 Heisman winner Joe Burrow was announced as a featured guest. He was brought on to thunderous cheers to join Brown on stage, as the Kelces reeled off every nickname in the book (Joe Sheisty, Joey Brrr, Joe Cool and more).




It did not stop there. Burrow’s ties with Jason are deeper than most realize. While it was known that Burrow entertained Cincinnati as a potential transfer spot out of Ohio State, he said he was going through a tough time before seeing Jason’s emotional speech following his Super Bowl LII title. That, combined with Jason texting Burrow to consider Cincinnati for his final destination, struck a nerve with him.


While he elected to attend LSU, Jason remarked that it could have been the best for all. It allowed Ridder to flourish in Clifton, both took their schools to new heights (no pun intended), and the rest is certainly history.



As if the spotlight guests were not enough, the University of Cincinnati had one more surprise up its sleeve.


Director of Athletics John Cunningham took a mic from the corner of the arena to thank them for coming while also saying that despite neither of the Kelces making it back to their official commencements for one reason or another, “we decided to bring it to you.”




Neville Pinto, dressed to presidential commencement hood and all, followed with degrees in hand for each of them. Parents Ed and Donna Kelce had since been signaled to center court as well, where an official, albeit quick, conferring of their diplomas took place. Even Travis appeared to wipe his face following a few words of thanks, before downing a beer in the utmost fashion.


This university has seen it all in its 205-year history, and yet it found itself with yet another unprecedented event.

Overall Thoughts from RiverfrontCincy:

It's not often that a university has two figures as polarizing as Jason and Travis Kelce. 

The notoriety that those two command is unprecedented. Two future hall of famers and great ambassadors to the University of Cincinnati, what they did for the university on Thursday night was something that Bearcat fans will remember for the rest of their lives.

These two Bearcat legends could have picked Cleveland, Kansas City, or Philadelphia, or anywhere else for their first live version of New Heights, but chose to come back and give back to a community and university where their journey to greatness began. 

This event benefited Cincy Reigns, but more importantly, also brought a national spotlight to the Cincinnati football program and what this university is all about. Thanks to Jason and Travis Kelce, people nationally received a four hour infomercial on just how special a place Clifton is. 

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